Current Students

M.F.A. in Drama & Theatre for Youth and Communities


Jennifer Arffmann

Jennifer Arffmann is a graduate student in the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program. She has been living and teaching in Austin, Texas for the past eight years. Working primary as a visual art teacher at a project-based public charter in East Austin, she has created projects that combine drama-based Instruction with visual art and core academic subject areas. She also enjoyed collaborating with other arts-based teachers to create school wide performances and plays centered around building and maintaining a school community. Radiant Child yoga trained with 320 hours of additional Kundalini teacher training, Jennifer has taught yoga both at the Austin Discovery School and at Yoga Yoga in Austin, Texas. She incorporates movement and body awareness into her drama-based work. She is most excited about studying how creativity can be fully expressed when active drama strategies are used in conjunction with visual art.


Briana Bower

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Originally from Wayne, Pennsylvania, Briana Bower is a M.F.A. candidate in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities at UT Austin. She received a BA in Theatre with a focus in Theatre Education from Northwestern University, and completed an honors thesis that explored the process of site specific devising with youth. While in Chicago, Briana worked with Light Opera Works, School District 65, Dream Big, and Chicago Children's Theatre, specifically with the Red Kite Camp. Before coming to UT, she was the Tour Manager for Child’s Play Touring Theatre, where she adapted and performed stories written by students all over the US, led summer camps, and developed cross curriculum story writing guides. At UT, Briana hopes to continue to research the power of story in the classroom and how the oral tradition of storytelling can inspire a culture of cross-generational learning.


Tamara Carroll

Tamara Carroll is excited to be joining the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program at UT Austin. She graduated with a B.A. in Theatre from Reed College, after which she remained in Portland and founded Action/Adventure Theatre with several friends. While producing and directing theatre for twentysomethings by night, by day she brought educational theatre programming to thousands of grade school children throughout Portland and the surrounding suburbs, touring with both Oregon Children's Theatre and Sight Theatre Group on shows addressing renewable energy, healthy eating, energy conservation, bullying, childhood obesity, and peer pressure. During the summer, Tamara works as a theatre director and acting instructor at Buck's Rock Creative and Performing Arts Camp, an amazing program where teens explore a variety of visual and performance art mediums in a Montessori style setting. She is looking forward to an abundance of self-discovery and illumination in the upcoming years.


José Casas

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José Casas is a first year graduate student in the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities Program. He has earned a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Dramatic Arts, a M.A. in Theatre Arts from California State University, Los Angeles and a M.F.A. in Playwriting from Arizona State University. For the past decade, he has been teaching in a number of different schools such as CSULA, University of Redlands and College of Charleston. He is the former literary manager of CASA0101. He is known for his playwriting in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences. He has had his plays produced across the country and has a number of publications to his name. He is currently creating an anthology, Palabras del Cielo: A Critical Anthology of Latina/o Plays & Playwrights that is scheduled to be published by Dramatic Publishing in 2015. He is excited about exploring the issue of diversity in TYA and its importance to the landscape of the field.


Rebecca Drew Emmerich

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Rebecca Drew Emmerich is a first year M.F.A. candidate in the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program at The University of Texas at Austin. She receive​​​​d a B.F.A. in Theatre from Western Kentucky University (WKU). Becca Drew was a teaching artist and performer at Lexington Children's Theatre (KY), developing in-school residencies and creative drama classes. She returned to WKU to develop a new touring show centered around lesser know Brother's Grimm Fairytales (Fairytales You've Never Heard), which was selected to perform at the Theatre for Youth Festival at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in 2010. Working as a teaching artist in Chicago, she discovered Bubbles Academy - a learning enrichment center for babies to five year olds. As artistic director/curriculum coordinator, she taught creative movement, ballet, art and creative drama classes and designed interactive multimedia projections to accompany each class. It was there that her love of early childhood development, passion for arts education, and interest in technology and design merged. She is excited to join the DTYC program - to take her passions to the next level.


Cortney McEniry

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Cortney McEniry is a M.F.A. candidate in the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program at UT Austin. She has worked as a teaching artist with the education departments of McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA and Synchronicity Theatre Company in Atlanta, GA. She received her B.A. in Theatre Arts from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Cortney is a co-founder and executive director of Front Porch Arts Collective, a multi-disciplinary arts organization working towards a vision for all communities in Greenville to experience art that engages authentically with their stories. Also in Greenville, Cortney produced, wrote and directed The Homeless Dialogues, a multi-arts presentation examining interactions between Furman University students and the homeless community, and she developed a 10-week summer drama program with underserved students, culminating in a student-written production entitled A Day in Our Lives. She is a believer in united communities, inspired creativity, and strong coffee, and is looking forward to exploring the power in each of those commodities in the years to come at The University of Texas at Austin.


Megan Nevels

Megan Nevels

Megan Nevels graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont, California and spent six months studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. She wrote and performed Khawuleza, a one-person play about HIV/AIDS in South Africa, as her senior thesis, and plans to travel back to Cape Town to devise theatre pieces with HIV-positive youth. Megan has worked at UCLA as the coordinator for the summer youth acting program ActOne and as the programs intern and later as a youth mentor with The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company in Los Angeles. She has been a featured playwright and spoken word artist at various festivals and events in Los Angeles, Claremont, Durban and Cape Town.


Meredyth Pederson

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Meredyth Pederson is a M.F.A. candidate in the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program. Meredyth is exploring the multiple intersections of teaching artistry and theatre-making in a variety of areas including arts integration, professional development, theatre for the very young and dramaturgy in theatre for young audiences. She holds her undergraduate degree in theatre from American University in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a teaching artist at Imagination Stage, Lexington Children's Theatre, Trinity Repertory Company, Metro Theater Company and ZACH Theatre. Meredyth is an active member of Theatre for Young Audiences/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY). She blogs about her life as a teaching artist at ArtSmart: artsedblog.wordpress.com.


Lauren Smith

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Lauren Smith is thrilled to begin her first year as a M.F.A. candidate in the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program at UT Austin. She holds her B.F.A. in Stage Management and a minor in Education from Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts in St. Louis, Missouri. Lauren has worked for various arts organizations, including Children's Theatre Company, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Washington National Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, and Metro Theater Company. She currently serves as the education coordinator for Great River Shakespeare Festival, where she has created programming focusing on theatre design and stage management for middle and high school students. She is excited to pursue research and practice in arts-integrated instruction in public school classrooms and the intersections of arts instruction and educational policy.


Spring Snyder

Spring Snyder

Spring Snyder is a M.F.A. candidate in the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities Program who comes to us from Portland, Oregon. She started her theatre training at the American and Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City and then continued on to The University of Montana, Missoula. While pursuing her degree in Theatre Education, she co-founded a youth activist theatre group, and spent a year studying abroad at EWHA Women's University in Seoul, South Korea. Spring has loved the concept of theatre as a means of education and creating social change since the moment she realized it was a real thing. She has worked with Missoula Children's Theatre, Sight Theatre Group, Young Players, and Oregon Children's Theatre, and has taught Theatre of the Oppressed to a range of students and cultures from teenagers in California to Jesuit Priests in India.


Joshua Streeter

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Joshua Streeter is from the New York/Pennsylvania area. He holds degrees from Millikin University, Emerson College, and Mansfield University. Joshua has recently worked with several theatre companies focused on developing and producing new musical theatre. In addition to working in the theatre, he was a 2nd and 3rd grade classroom teacher for four and a half years. Joshua is an active member of American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) and is currently a theatre writer for the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). The Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities (DTYC) program will assist Joshua in investigating the writing, producing, and history of Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA).


Emily Aguilar Thomas

Emily Thomas

Emily Aguilar Thomas is a M.F.A. candidate in the Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities program at The University of Texas at Austin. She received a B.F.A. in Theatre Performance, and a B.A. in English Studies, Summa Cum Laude, from Niagara University, New York. She has worked as a teaching artist and theatre program coordinator for the Indigenous Cultures Institute (San Marcos) and Camp Mosaic for Isma’ili Muslim youth (Austin). She has also worked as a Dramaturg for Teatro Vivo as well as a teaching artist and apprentice at ZACH Theatre (Austin). As a teaching artist and Applied Theatre practitioner, Emily is passionate about working with and within marginalized communities. She is currently developing a theatre piece for pre-adolescent youth to encourage dialogue around issues of sexual violence against children.